A back office in most corporations is where tasks dedicated to running the company itself take place. The term "back office" comes from the building layout of early companies where the front office would contain the sales and other customer-facing staff and the back office would be those manufacturing or developing the products or those involved in administration without being seen by customers. Although the operations of a back office are seldom prominent, they are a major contributor to a business. Broadly speaking, back office includes roles that affect the left side (costs) of business' trading statement.
Back offices may be located somewhere other than company headquarters. Many are in areas and countries with cheaper rent and lower labor costs. Some office parks such as MetroTech Center provide back offices for tenants whose front offices are in more expensive neighborhoods. Back office functions can be outsourced to consultants and contractors, including ones in other countries.
Examples of back-office tasks include IT departments that keep the phones and computers running (operations architecture), accounting, and human resources. These tasks are often supported by back-office systems: secure e-commerce software that processes company information (e.g., databases). A back-office system will keep a record of the company’s sales and purchase transactions, and update the inventory as needed. Invoices, receipts, and reports can also be produced by the back-office system.
In banking, the back office includes a heavyweight IT processing system that handles position keeping, clearance, and settlement, but does not include the Compliance Department, which would be an external office.
In investment firms, the back office includes the administrative functions that support the trading of securities, including record keeping, trade confirmation, trade settlement, and regulatory compliance.
In sales, the back office typically plays a key role internally, providing support to the sales force for administrative duties such as legal, finance, marketing, order management, operations support, as well as customer facing roles typically positioned to include functions that support customer order fulfillment and duties involved with readying customer-support call centers.
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- Business Link (2006). Maintaining your web content and technology. http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/detail?r.s=sl&type=RESOURCES&itemId=1075383691. Retrieved Jun. 25, 2006.
- Haag, S. et al. Management Information Systems for the Information Age (3rd Canadian ed.) Toronto: McGraw-Hill
- MSN Encarta Dictionary (2006). "Back Office (Archived 2009-10-31)." Retrieved Jun. 24, 2006.